Car surfing: How extreme is too extreme?

The motto of an on-duty police officer sums up the gravity of the situation. 

“Prepare for the worst possible outcome while hoping for the best.” Preparing for the death of an adolescent, especially when their demise is a direct result of their own foolish misadventure, impossible.

The phenomenon of car surfing, also known as drifting or ghost riding, is an illegal practice where the “surfer” sits or stands on the hood, roof or trunk of a moving vehicle. 

The surfer can also hang on to the side of or be pulled by a rope behind the vehicle on a skateboard or in a shopping cart. Sounds exciting?

The practice has claimed the lives of young adults all over the country. California, Texas and Florida lead the country in deaths related to the extreme activity.

“This is not safe,” warns Florida Highway patrol spokeswoman Kim Miller.  “When you’re doing something like this, you have no control.  [Death] is exactly the kind of outcome that could happen.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 58 deaths and 41 nonfatal injuries from the summer of 2008 are attributed to car surfing — 75 percent of those casualties came from the Midwest and Southern, with 69 percent of those injured being  males  from 15 to 19-years-old.

These statistics, along with countless other illegal extreme sports-related deaths, injuries and arrests did not well with Florida officials.  A few have decided to take action.

Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford has re-launched the “Beat the Heat” safety program, enlisting the help of former drag racer, Sgt. Don Robertson. Robertson began the program in 1984.

The “Beat the Heat” program is a series of speeches held at car shows and safety programs to educate citizens on the dangers of street racing and car surfing.

Willing street racers are also challenged by police officers to a high-speed contest in a controlled environment to see who can cross the finish line first.

“It was designed to address the issue of illegal street racing in the 1980s,” Rutherford said.

“The problem has experienced a resurgence in the past few years, and based on the success of the …we are bringing ‘Beat the Heat’ back. It will be a regional program, not just for Duval County but surrounding areas as well.”

Police forces are not the only organizations taking action against these unsupervised events. Camp Realize Your Natural Obsession (RYNO), located in Florida’s panhandle,  is a summer camp dedicated to extreme sports and sportsmanship education.

They are dedicated to giving outlets to teens interested in the various adrenaline-rush inducing activities.

Jeffery Johnson, 22, a political science student from Jacksonville, Fla., does not participate in extreme sports himself, but says the outlet is needed for others.

“In my opinion, (there are) certain circumstances (where) there should be a window of opportunity allowed for those who choose to express themselves … ,” Johnson said. “The fact that these young people get to express themselves in a supervised manner is beneficial to not just them but the community as a whole … .”

Whether controlled environments have an impact on the amount of injuries involved with extreme sports remains to be seen.